Photo contributed by A.M. "Toon" Blokand.

Bio: Klaas Siersema

I recently got a message from my uncle asking what I might know about Klaas Siersema, my great-grandfather. Well, the truth is I know a lot, I’ve been remiss in writing down all in one place, and I would love to know more. So, here goes. If anyone has additional information about Klaas Siersema, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for the kick in the pants, Uncle Mike!

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Nicholas Siersema was born on September 15, 1895, in Groningen, Netherlands, to Arentje Vermaas and Gerrit Siersema.

Klaas was the youngest of three siblings. He had two older sisters, Helena Elisabeth “Leentje” Siersema and Elisabeth Helena “Bets” Siersema. Leentje eventually died of starvation during World War II and Bets was rumored to be a medium who could speak to the dead much like her grandfather.

Arentje left Gerrit, who was supposed to be a terrible drunk, taking their children with her when they were still young. She later worked in a shop, but it was likely she went to stay with relatives and did not wholly support herself and her children. It’s possible she stayed with Jacoba Antoinetta van Eijsden in Brielle (I like this theory because in 1909 when Jacoba died, she left half her house and courtyard to Arentje). Jacoba also left Klaas 50 gilders, according to the record Cousin Anje found online.

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Family Photo. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Klaas would go on to become a career military man. He had joined the Royal Netherlands military by the age of 20, and I believe he was a Vaandrig (officer cadet) when photographed with fellow soldiers in Kampen in 1915.

He was promoted to Tweede-Luitenant (second lieutenant) on September 25, 1917, by the Ministry of War–although this was during WWI, the Netherlands was neutral in the war.

After what was in part a long-distance courtship, Klaas married Helena Frederika de Wit at the Netherlands Reformed Church in Hertogenbosch, where her father was a highly respected member of the congregation. According to their calling cards, Klaas and Helena both lived in Hertogenbosch prior to their nuptials. At 27 years old, Klaas was listed on their wedding certificate as a First Lieutenant of the Infantry. They wed on August 28th, 1923, and he was eight years her senior.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena "Lenie" Frederika de Wit.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit.

Their first son, Johan Nico “Hans” Siersema, was born in Venlo a little more than a year later on October 9, 1924.

Antony Dirk “Tonny” Siersema, their second son, was born on November 15, 1927.

The death of Tonny on August 1, 1929 precipitated Klaas and Helena’s eventual divorce in that it brought the family doctor deeper into their lives. Helena would go on to have a committed relationship with the doctor for about 50 years.

Klaas remarried to Maria Wilhelmina van Erp, whom he remained married to until his death.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp's wedding portrait.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp’s wedding portrait.

Together, they supported Je Maintiendrai, one of the most prominent underground newspapers in the Netherlands during WWII.

By March, 1938, Klaas had achieved the rank of Kapitein (captain) of 2e Compagnie II Bataljon in the 6e Regiment Infanterie, according to a newspaper clipping. He was photographed with fellow military personnel on July 15 with three stars pinned on either side of his collar.

In 1942, Klaas was captured by the Nazis as a prisoner of war. He was held at Oflag XIII-B, a prisoner of war camp for officers that was at the time in Hammelburg, Germany. There or sometime after, I believe he drew this sketch. He also wrote letters to his wife.

Following his release, his son Hans also escaped from a POW camp. According to one family story, when Hans returned home, Klaas saw the car pull up outside and immediately went into his backyard to hide in the bushes. He thought the Nazis had returned for him, but it was only his son returning home.

Klaas is said to have done important work at the Militair Revalidatie Centrum Aardenburg, where as Director of the institute he helped pioneer new methods of treatment for shell-shock soldiers. According to my step-grandmother, those suffering from what we now call PTSD could live on the grounds with their families, which was unheard of at the time. The hospital does cutting edge medical work to this day. Klaas was succeeded in his position at the MRC by Lcol. Th.A.J. van Erp, according to A.M. “Toon” Blokand.

In 1952, Klaas was named an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, which honors selective individuals for their contributions to society through either civilian or military efforts.


Klaas died of a heart attack while reading “Mein Kampf” at the age of 60 in Doorn on October 14, 1955. I’m not sure if that phrase means he was literally reading it, but that’s how I’ve heard it referenced. My mom still has the book with  his bookmark in it.

Click on the photos below to enlarge them.

Click here to see the images Klaas kept in his pocket photo book.

Visiting the Netherlands for the first time

 I am visiting the Netherlands and exploring Amsterdam with my mom ahead of a reunion with the Lopes-Cardozo side of the family in Loosdrecht. Amsterdam is a beautiful, bustling city with many canals, tastey sea food, something like a million bicycles, and excellent public transportation. 

Since arriving, I’ve been taking advantage of vacation hours and sleeping in and then we’ve leisurely ventured out into the city. We visited the Dutch Resistance Museum, where we learned about how the Royal Family stood against the Nazis from afar, factory workers would spontaneously strike in solidarity, even though they were sometimes executed for it, and about the 1,300 resistance newspapers popped up throughout the war. The museum had a couple copies of Je Maintiendrai, which was exciting to see, since it was something I blogged about before. 

Also, just seeing the waterways and buildings makes it easier to imagine what life would have been like when my ancestors lived here. 

It’s funny, but since what I know of them is usually text on paper or black and white photos, their lives have less color in my mind’s eye than they did in actuality. 

Tomorrow, we will get to meet Cousin Anje in the flesh (very exciting since she’s helped me so much with this blog over the years), and then we’ll be off to Loosdrecht, and Paris (just for fun).

To share more of my trip with you,  here are some of the just-for-fun photos I have captured so far…

A different perspective of the not-so-secret secret Begijnhof Courtyard.

Trams running through downtown.

A quick peek through a cheese shop window.

Europe has some striking graffiti.

It wasn’t even commuter hour yet and the streets were filled. This is just after a line of cyclists passed by.

In Vondel Park, lockets with names inscribed line the iron on this small bridge.

Religious sculptures in the wall of abuilding in Begijnhof Courtyard.

If you kept reading this far, you deserve to see me make a fool of myself over seeing my first Dutch windmill. You are welcome.







Portrait of Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas.

Portrait of Candelaria Marin Hernandez & Mariano Vargas Ramos

Portrait of Candelaria Marin Hernandez and  Mariano Vargas.

Portrait of Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos.

I was very excited to see this portrait on the wall of my cousin’s house at her holiday party last night. Cousin Rose each year hosts a Christmas party and this is the first time in recent memory that I have been able to attend.

At first, I wasn’t sure how old the portrait was and if the man pictured was Rose’s father, Atenojenes Vargas Marin, or his father Mariano Vargas Ramos. Cousin Rose, though, confirmed the man and woman were her grandparents, not her parents, making this image a rare one, in my opinion.

Candelaria Marin Hernandez was born in about 1869 to Miguel Marin and Rosa Hernandez Lopez in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico. She had three siblings I know of: Maria, Jose, and Luis. And she had nine children: Atenojenes (1901), Carmen (1906), Genoveba (1907), Guadalupe (1909), Consuelo (1912), Nieves aka Nancy (1914), Luz aka Lucy (1918), Alfonso (1919), and Luis (1920).

Candelaria was married to Mariano Vargas Ramos, who was born to Francisco Vargas and Maria Aniceta de Jesus Ramos Villanueva in October of 1870, also in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico. He was baptized the following month.


“In the parish church of Ameca, on the 4th of November 1870, I the Rev. Don Bernardino E. Topete, solemnly baptize: Mariano, 20 days old, born in this city; natural son of Francisco Vargas and Aniceta Ramos; and grandson by paternal line of Jose Maria Vargas and Lugarda Ramos; and by maternal line of Jose Maria Ramos and Victoria Villanueva. And his godparents were Prisiliano Villanueva and Marcelina Castillo, who were advised of their obligation and spiritual relationship.

Miguel Ygnacio Yzquierdo

Bernardino C Topete”

Part of why Rose has kept this photo

Cousin Rose also had a story about the photo. Rose and cousin Consuelo were very close. When Consuelo was on her death bed a few years back and Rose was taking care of her, Consuelo would ask for her parents. With few options, Rose would show her this portrait and it seemed to bring Consuelo comfort.

PHOTO: Gullicksen siblings in the 1950s

Gullicksen siblings in the 1950s

Gullicksen siblings in the 1950s

This is a photo my grandmother Carmen Gullicksen (n. Dominguez) showed me last year when I went to Missouri to meet her for the first time. It makes me smile just looking at it. I’m guessing it’s from Halloween from the late 1950s. From left, Christina Gullicksen, Otto Gullicksen, and my dad, Steven Gullicksen.

Letter from the Roman Catholic Military Society from 1896

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896. (Front)

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896. (Front)

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896.

Roman Catholic Military Society document from 1896


This is the oldest written document in my possession. It’s in some hard-to-read cursive (and Dutch), so I turned to Cousin Anje to learn a little more about it. Here’s her summary:

It is a letter of the Roman Catholic Military Society, signed 4 August 1896 by the chairman and secretary. It is a letter to a honorable man (whose name is not mentioned), who has been selected as an honorary member of the society in the meeting of 3 June 1896. The letter tells him that he will also receive a “material token of a appreciation.” They express the wish that this present will serve him well and that it will remind him of the Society.  
What the present is and to whom the letter is written remains a secret to me. It is mentioned that he served in a garrison in den Helder (den Helder is a marine city in the dutch province Noord-Holland). 
My best guess is that this document somehow ties to Dirk de Wit, who was an active member of the Dutch Reformed Church.

PHOTO: The daily life of Klaas Siersema and Maria Wilhelmina van Erp

Klaas Siersema and Maria Wilhelmina van Erp warm themselves near the stove.

Klaas Siersema and Maria Wilhelmina van Erp warm themselves near the stove.

This photo is a little scarred, but I like how it shows a glimpse into the daily life of Klaas Siersema and Maria Wilhelmina van Erp, or Oma Doorn as I’ve always known her to be called. My mom’s side of the family has always liked dogs (we treat them like kings), and this image fits with that trend. It must have been a cold day, since Klaas and Wilhelmina are situated around a stove. Also, notice the kettle heading on the stove and Maria reading a book — a simpler time!

Photo: The Vargas sisters


Vargas sisters family photo. (Courtesy Carmen Gullickson)

Vargas sisters family photo. (Courtesy Carmen Gullickson)

This is a photo of a picture my grandmother had of my great-grandmother Carmen Vargas Marin and her sisters. From the top, left to right, Consuelo Vargas Marin [1912-2005], Nieves “Nancy” Vargas Marin [1914-?], Lucy Vargas Marin [unknown], and Carmen Vargas Marin [1906-1984].

There were originally six Vargas sisters, but two of them died in their late teens. All of them were born in Mexico and worked in the canneries in San Francisco after the family emigrated, according to my uncle Art.

1933 Kool family photo

Photo: Kool family in summer of 1933

A Kool family photo from the summer of 1933. (Courtesy of Halbo Kool)

A Kool family photo from the summer of 1933. (Courtesy of Halbo Kool)

The back of a Kool family photo from the summer of 1933. (Courtesy of Halbo Kool)

The back of a Kool family photo from the summer of 1933. (Courtesy of Halbo Kool)

This photo reminds me of half the family photos I’ve eve taken, where you hit the button before everyone is paying attention. It was sent to me by Halbo Kool and he had a go at deciphering the handwriting on the back, as well as identifying the faces he knew in the photo. Here’s what his note said:

“…Summer 1933 Her(man ?) Brouwer ( ?) ; Germ & Anni ; Hendrik & Irene ; HCK & Chr. (Hendrik 3rd from right, HCK and Chr the two on the left)”

To further translate, Christina Kolle is on the far left, and Halbo Kool (b.1873) is standing next to her. Halbo Kool (b.1873)’s brother Hendrik Kool is the third from the right with wife Irene, but we are not sure which woman she is. Germ Kool and wife Anni (Anna Hebelina Klugkist) are also in the photo, as are host Her(man?) Brouwer and another female.

As for the Brouwers, they may be relatives, but I am not sure. They may just be family friends. It’s funny, though, because my best friend and I are both interested in genealogy and she recently found some family members in her tree from the Netherlands with the last name Brouwer and so I’ve been on the lookout for connections between our families.

Recognize anyone? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to further narrow down who’s who in this photograph.

Cousin Anje has identified everyone in this photo:

1. Christina Kool (née Kolle) 1873-1957 married with Halbo Kool (b.1873)
2. Hendrik Kool 1869-1962 brother Halbo Kool, not married
3. Elsina Anna Kool 1867-1944 sister Halbo Kool, not married
4. Germ Kool 1875 – 1950 brother Halbo Kool, married with Anna Hebelina Klugkist
5. Anna Hebelina Kool (née Klugkist) 1880 -1944 married wirh Germ Kool. Her mother was a sister of Germ’s father.
6. Halbo Kool 1873 – 1943 married with Christina Kolle
7. Catharina Brouwer (née Meijer) 1870 – 1948. Married with Hergen Brouwer. Catharina’s mother was Annechiena Gezina Duintjer, a sister of Halbo Kool’s mother Gonda Margaretha Duintjer.
8. Hergen Brouwer 1871 – 1944

Thanks Anje!

Early 1900s photo of Cornelis “Cees” Kool, governess

Cornelis "Cees" Kool and governess.

Cornelis “Cees” Kool and governess. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This kid looks like he just does not trust the camera.

This is an early 1900s photo of Cornelis “Cees” Kool, with his governess, that Halbo Kool sent me a while back and I recently remembered I meant to post it. Cornelis was born on July 6, 1900, in Groningen, Netherlands, and died a grandfather in Canada on March 27, 1979. From what I’ve heard over the years, he was a pretty cool guy. Very smart. I’ll write more on him later.